In a completely different stream of thought (though highly related, just wait for it) two of my riding friends have fat bikes that they ride as their "regular" mountain bikes, or at least ride them occasionally in the dirt. Every time I see them riding these things they have big smiles on their faces. I always say I ride for one reason - fun, and those fat bikes look like fun.
So I put those two things together and thought, why don't I sell the Big Unit and buy a fat bike to use as my spare bike. The added bonus of having a fat bike is that on those three or four days when there's too much snow to ride a regular bike, I can go out with the fat bike. How is that for justification for a new bike? I've almost got it to the "I'm stupid for not having done this already!" stage.
As with anything bike related, the options and prices for fat bikes are practically unlimited, which is the complete opposite of what is stocked at the LBS. I've spent limited time on a fat bike, so this is a decision that will need to be made virtually rather than through test rides. I spent some time looking at what's out there and came up with this list of bikes (sorted by price):
Bike Price Tires Brakes Comments
Motobecane $1000 4” Shimano M445L Ship date unknown
On One $1449 4” Avid Elixir 1 Single ring in front
Surly pugsley $1650 4” Avid BB7 Narrower rim than ops
Surly Pugsley Ops $1650 4” Avid BB7 Ops has wider rim
Salsa Mukluk 3 $1750 4” Avid BB7 Stock? can't find any on line
Specialized Fatboy $2000 5” Tektro Draco 2 December ship date (lightest?)
Surly Moonlander $2350 5” Avid BB7 More upright, long chainstays
There are obviously a lot of other differences between these bikes besides tires and brakes, but I feel like most of the rest of the tech choices are fairly benign. Derailleurs, cranksets and wheels are not going to make or break the bike for me. There is this concept of being able to run 29er wheels on a fat bike frame, some fat bikes have the correct rear wheel spacing to allow for that, it's interesting, but not part of my criteria
Also there are a lot more fat bikes out there, these are the reasonably priced ones. There's a brand called Fatback that puts together a sub-30lb fat bike, but the pricing, whew - $3250! There's also a Salsa Beargrease - carbon fiber frame, another Yikes! inducing price.
I particularly hate a bad set of brakes, so that gives me pause with almost any of the bikes above that don't have BB7's. I prefer hydraulic brakes over mechanicals, but I'll take BB7s over crappy hydros any day, to my eyes all those hydros above are of the crap variety. I do have a set of BB7s in the parts bin, so I guess I can always slap those on if I don't like the ones that come with the bike.
Tire width comes into the picture perhaps as one of those bigger is always better kind of things. 4" tires were kind of the standard for a few years, but now a few bikes have started showing up with the ability to handle 5" tires. I've read mixed things about the wider tires - most have to do with handling, I'm on the fence there.
Weight is certainly a consideration, but I think we're talking pretty close to 35lbs for any of these machines, so I'm not really worried about a few pounds here or there.
I guess right now the On One is looking pretty good, with the Fatboy in a close second. The pricing on the On One seems reasonable - yeah the Motobecane is cheaper, but that's not in stock and no delivery dates are being floated, so I don't even know if that's a realistic choice. The Fatboy is supposed to be shipping in December, which would give me some time to raise the funds, assuming my LBS can actually get one. The single ring in front on the On One gives me pause though, with the terrain around here I think having a granny would be a be plus.
So there you have it, I say brakes are important and then pick two bikes with crap hydros.
I'll spend a few days ruminating and reading some more, maybe I'll call the LBS about that Fatboy. I hate to feel like I'm jumping on a bandwagon and this feels more than a little bit like that, oh well.